Tom Cleverley’s injury-time strike helped Watford climb into the top four and condemned Arsenal to a first Premier League defeat since August. The former Manchester United and Everton midfielder lashed home in the dying second to send Vicarage Road into raptures and continue their remarkable start to the season.
Per Mertesacker, making a rare start, had earlier headed the Gunners in front before Troy Deeney equalised from the penalty spot after Hector Bellerin had controversially been adjudged to have fouled Richarlison. Replays suggested the Brazilian had made the most of any contact, much to the annoyance of Arsene Wenger. Here are three talking points from an incident-packed evening.
Arsenal lack leadership and heart
It is an accusation often labelled against the Gunners and for all Wenger’s insistence to the contrary, the capitulation against Watford was another example that they are not mentally strong enough. Arsenal had dominated the first half but their one-goal advantage was tenuous and the Hornets capitalised with two late efforts to leapfrog their opponents in the table.
Wenger’s post-match comments focused on the penalty decision, but he needs to look at his own side’s failings. They should have had the game wrapped up long before Deeney equalised and it was their soft underbelly which was once again exposed in the closing moments. When the going gets tough, Arsenal continually show their true colours.
Watford look at home under Silva
The Hornets’ first victory of the season at Vicarage Road rubber-stamped their best ever start in England’s top-flight, with 15 points from eight games. They are currently in illustrious company, sandwiched between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in the table. Nobody is expecting Watford to finish so highly, but they are there on merit – not by luck.
Boss Marco Silva made some astute summer signings that have greatly added to the squad and the Hornets are much more attractive to watch than under the Portuguese’s predecessor, Walter Mazzarri. There will still be the odd hiccup, such as their demolition by Manchester City, but Watford are a progressive club that now look established in the Premier League.
Wenger preparing for life after Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez
Neither Alexis Sanchez nor Mesut Ozil were in Arsenal’s starting line-up against Watford. It is a sight Gunners fans may have to get used to, with both players looking increasingly likely to be on their way out of the Emirates. Arsenal turned down a transfer deadline-day bid from Manchester City for Sanchez, instead allowing both the Chilean and Ozil to enter the final 12 months of their contracts.
Wenger’s stance has softened in recent weeks as he accepts that his two most high-profile assets cannot be permitted to leave for nothing next summer. The enigmatic Ozil, a second-half substitute against Watford, looks disinterested and his miss, which happened seconds before the hosts equalised, proved very costly.